Make Your SHOT Show Count

Getting the most out of your SHOT Show experience takes planning and a little strategy.

Make Your SHOT Show Count

The holiday season has passed, but the most wonderful time of the year is still approaching.

The SHOT Show is the industry’s biggest event. In the almost two decades I’ve been attending this event, I’ve watched it grow from a single section of a much smaller convention center to bursting at the seams of one of the largest trade show venues in the country. For a first-time attendee, it can be quite overwhelming.

Whether 2020 is your first or your 15th SHOT Show, there’s sure to be something for everyone. With over 2,000 display booths, numerous seminars, presentations and events you’d need to visit over 500 per day, approximately one per minute, if you wanted to see them all. Make sure you plan ahead to maximize your time.

The Pre-Show Plan

The main ways you spend time at any trade show are seeking out vendors on your list, attending seminars and events, and wandering the floor to see what you can discover.

You can get the most value out of your time at the show by contacting the people you’d like to talk to ahead of time and letting them know you’ll be attending and would like to meet with them.

You should also download the SHOT Show app. Not only can you schedule and request meetings directly through the app — you can keep your entire SHOT week calendar on it.

The app is a good way to determine approximate travel time between booths and a much faster way to locate anything at the show.

Must-Sees for the New Attendee

1. SHOT University

This day-long event includes seminars and speakers with topics ranging from new processing software to leadership to your role in the recruitment of new shooters and hunters. Regardless of the curriculum, The National Shooting Sports Foundation makes sure to plan this event around the input and requests of its retailer members. Additional retailer seminars will be held throughout the remainder of the show.

2. The Main Floor

It has become quite difficult to see the entire show in four days, but as a new attendee you’ll likely be spending a good portion of your time in the main convention hall, level 2, where the majority of major brands, large distributors and business are located. If your business is or includes law enforcement and/or “tactical” products, you’ll also spend some time in the dedicated side halls on the main floor.

3. State of the Industry Reception

The NSSF website states that “With even more emphasis on networking, the 2019 State of the Industry Reception has been redesigned to give you more time to interact with your industry colleagues and take in the world-famous Las Vegas hospitality.”

Especially for the new attendee, this is a great opportunity to meet and connect with prominent figures and leaders in the industry as well as learn about accomplishments across the industry over the past year and what challenges lie ahead. Just be sure to get your tickets early; they’re usually gone well in advance.

Industry Day at the Range, now in its 15th year in Boulder City, has grown into a huge pre-SHOT event with a full array of products.
Industry Day at the Range, now in its 15th year in Boulder City, has grown into a huge pre-SHOT event with a full array of products.

For the Veteran

1. Industry Day at the Range

This blockbuster event, held on the Monday before SHOT Show opens, is now in its 15th year and is a showcase for all kinds of new guns and gear. Everything from fully automatic machine guns to silenced air rifles and everything in between is available to not just view, but to shoot in a safe environment all in the same day. Buyers and media are welcome to attend by invitation. Talk to your vendors and sales representatives well ahead of the show if you wish to attend. There is no same-day registration for this event.


If you have appointments or certain booths and products that you need to see, visit those first. Then, work the event systematically from one end to another.

Choose which booths interest you, but make sure to be looking with a customer-focused eye. Sure, that new crossbow they are demonstrating looks really cool, but you might work in a more traditional local gun shop with an indoor range. Perhaps the new Hellcat pistol by Springfield Armory or that new line of frangible ammo would be a better use of your time.

It’s easy to get distracted here, as there are so many opportunities to test new guns and gear, along with a constant barrage of gunfire. Also, remember to save some time and treat at least part of your visit here as a reward for the hard work you put in the rest of the year. You likely got into the gun business because you like to shoot, and this is a great opportunity.

2. SHOT Show NEXT and Pop-Up Preview NEXT is a relatively new display event that’s already overflowing its capacity. The idea behind the NEXT area is to introduce new manufacturers and never-before-seen products. Last year’s NEXT area displayed over 200 products and companies.

The NEXT area of the show is located on the third level, which is conveniently adjacent to the Member’s lounge and press room.

The Pop-Up Preview was brand new in 2019 and features hundreds of leading and up-and-coming manufacturers that have been trying to exhibit at SHOT Show for years. A complement to shooting sports and hunting products, today’s most in-demand accessories and equipment are on display here. The new pavilion features the latest in clothing, footwear, cameras, tents and other gear that today’s active hunters and outdoors enthusiasts demand. It is a great destination for retailers to build inventory with the top styles and all the latest that today’s active consumers demand.

3. Distributor Booths/ Distributor Showcase Every retailer knows that distributors are a key to their overall success. Whether it is a product that you don’t normally inventory or a supply level that is less than a manufacturer’s minimum, distributors are at the show to serve new and existing customers.

A must for every retail buyer or shop owner, SHOT Show’s distributors offer special purchases and packages only available at the SHOT Show. Wisely, they have consolidated the offers all in one place so that you can plan which booths to visit first to place your orders. 

Planning the Show

As someone who has been working SHOT Show for the better part of two decades, my best advice is to avoid the temptation to just wing it.

Time is always precious, but it seems that it’s even more limited at SHOT. That applies not only to you, but also to the manufacturers and distributors that plan their year around this show. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a schedule carefully set up to make the most efficient use of time and to avoid excess walking on concrete floors for four days, only to have that schedule totally blown by the end of the first day.

I’ve had the most success by following the 1.5x appointment model. Every appointment you make should be booked for 50 percent more time than you need to complete it and reach your next appointment. This allows whomever you’re waiting to meet with to wrap up a pervious meeting that might have started late or gone a little long. It also allows you to take a little extra time if necessary to regroup, re-plan and re-engage your next appointment effectively.

Any appointments that you do not have time to accommodate fully should be given the option to reschedule. Both you and the person you are meeting with may appreciate a little extra time for a bathroom or coffee break.

Classify your scheduled booth visits as A, B and C, with “A” appointments being must complete, “B” appointments those that are good to complete and “C” appointments as low priority.

All else being equal, you’re better off cancelling an appointment that’s starting late and getting to the next one early, especially if you know you’ll need the full amount of time you booked.

End of Day Meetings

It’s a good idea to end each day at the show with a meeting to allow everyone on your team to report in on what they accomplished, seek advice and possible assistance on catching up on any missed booth visits.

There’s good news on this front as well, as a lot of the major companies displaying at the show host receptions at the end of the day in their booth, usually with beverages and light snacks. These events tend to draw a lot of folks and can also be a good place for networking.

This brings up another, very important point.

You, and your team work very hard all year to make your business as successful as it can be.

While there’s nothing wrong with having a few cocktails to unwind at the end of the day, there are 51 other weeks to spend how you like. We, in the firearm and outdoor space, are some of the luckiest folks in the world to do what we do. Work hard, have fun and be safe while you are in Las Vegas and you will set yourself up for maximum success in the coming year.


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